PCA Coaches

The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) Way:

    • We are emotionally committed to achieving our mission of transforming the culture of youth sports. 
    • We are professional in all that we do in support of our mission. 
    • We recognize that effort and enjoyment tend to go hand in hand. 
    • We go the extra mile for a partner. 
    • We flush our mistakes, learn from them, and go on. 
    • We continue to innovate. 
    • We Debate and Commit rather than smooth and avoid. 
    • We fill each other's Emotional Tanks. 

The Magic Ratio

Phil Jackson

Coaches should fill players' Emotional Tanks. As with a car's gas tank, when our Emotional Tanks are full we can go anywhere! The best mix of fuel for that tank is five specific, truthful pieces of praise for every one specific, constructive correction. Keep track of tank-fillers and criticisms during a practice with pluses and minuses on a piece of paper. You'll be amazed at how many criticisms you hand out. Once you get to 5:1, you'll see why it's called the Magic Ratio. Your athletes will be so pumped they'll do things you would have thought were impossible.

Remember the kinds of things that fill tanks are praise (truthful and specific), reinforcing positives, listening and nonverbal actions (nodding, clapping, smiling). Criticisms, corrections, ignoring and nonverbal actions (frowns) are things that tend to drain tanks.

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Making the Most of Mistakes

Doc Rivers

Fear of making a mistake is a paralyzing force that robs athletes of spontaneity, love of the game, and a willingness to try new things. When coaches accept mistakes as part of learning, their athletes gain the psychological and emotional freedom that unlocks the learning process.

Think twice about removing players immediately after a mistake - you are saying it's not ok to make a mistake. Take a few minutes before subbing out players who have just made mistakes if you do not want them to think they are getting pulled because of the mistakes.

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Romance of Leadership and Over Coaching

Jim Thompson

Leaders and coaches tend to feel that if they aren't doing something dramatic "actively managing something" they aren't adding value. Stanford Business School Professor Jeff Pfeffer refers to this phenomenon in the business world as the "Romance of Leadership." The romantic view of leaders is that they are supposed to be decisive, active and "hands-on."

The problem is that the romance of leadership often leads coaches to over-coach during games. Sometimes the best thing you can do during a game is get out of the way and allow the players to execute all the great skills and strategies you have worked on together in practice.

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Respecting Officials

Jim Thompson

We Honor the Game by respecting officials simply because it's the right thing to do. A Double-Goal Coach® shows respect by his or her tone and body language, even when disagreeing with an official's call. A Double-Goal Coach does not yell or publicly disagree with officials, especially if there is any danger of parents or fans getting out of control. Coaches should never add fuel to the fire.

One way to approach officials with respect is to wait until a break in the action and then to ask, "What did you see on that play?" This may give the official a chance to further explain the situation without feeling defensive or threatened.
A Double-Goal Coach models respect by shaking hands with the officials and thanking them before and after games. Showing respect will even help the officials to do their jobs better.


Establishing a Team Culture

Herm Edwards

PCA defines culture as the way WE do things HERE. Early in the season, coaches should explicitly discuss expectations of behavior with players and their parents. Regarding punctuality, practice attendance, attention, effort, playing time decisions, academic achievement, sideline behavior, respect for others and myriad other details, coaches must explain their standards.

Doing so is a start toward enlisting the help of players and parents in building an optimal team culture. It will take repetition, positive reinforcement when you see behavior you want and a willingness to deliver consequences fairly if you see what you don't want. But, from day one, there should be no question in anyone's mind about the way WE do things HERE.

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Rewarding Players


Joe Ehrmann

In addition to traditional awards, such as most valuable player, consider rewarding players for more than just their sheer athletic accomplishment. Use rewards to positively reinforce desired character traits and behavior, such as exerting maximum effort, overcoming adversity and filling teammates' Emotional Tanks.

With a little imagination and close attention to what each player brings to your team, you could probably honor every player in every game. Think about symbolic rewards, including the dirty shirt award to the player who hustles the most, or a hard hat for your hardest worker.

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Emphasizing Effort

Carol Dweck

In PCA's ELM Tree of Mastery, ELM stands for Effort, Learning and Mistakes are OK. We cannot overemphasize the importance of effort: the one constant that every successful person must bring to every endeavor in sports and beyond.

The ability to sustain effort, even when positive results are not readily apparent, is one of the most important life lessons youth athletes can take from sports. Therefore, it is critical that coaches emphasize effort.

Consider conducting the occasional practice where you reward players with positive reinforcement based only on their effort, regardless of results. Try this in the first practice after a game in which your team's effort was lacking. That is when your players most need a reminder of the value you place on effort and probably need their emotional tanks filled, too.

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Remember What's Important

Chris Petersen

It's easy enough as a coach to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Even with the drive to win, rising emotions in the face of an official's call against your team, or just plain being in a bad mood, resist the temptation to act in a way that makes you less of a role model for your players.

What is ultimately important -- more important than winning -- is using sports to teach life lessons and shape the character of the youth athletes entrusted to you.

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Motivation Through Fun

Dusty Baker

If it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient, as Malcolm Gladwell explains in Outliers, then that practice better be fun. Few adults whose livelihoods depend on proficiency are willing to put in 10,000 hours without some fun, so you cannot expect youth athletes to do so.

Find time in each practice for your players to cut loose, try new positions or skills, or run relay races (a great way to sneak in some extra conditioning by making conditioning fun!) Not only will you have a better-performing, more upbeat bunch of athletes, but you will contribute to their lifelong love of sport and all the benefits that entails.

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Lessons From Losing

Kayla Smedley

It is important to teach players how to both win and lose gracefully, because they almost certainly will have both experiences. People can often learn a lot more from losing than from winning.

For example, it sometimes takes a loss to awaken players to flaws in their game or the team as a whole that they otherwise could have overlooked. Losing also can help renew their commitment to mastering their sport.

It can help players recognize any lapse in intensity of their practice, conditioning or mental focus. And, if your team uses the loss as a springboard for correcting a lapse, you will return to competition stronger than you were before.

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Building Team Culture

Dusty Baker

Building team culture is an ongoing, never-ending process. You may know what culture you want, and you may have some hard, fast rules, but the individuality of your players also will help shape team culture.

As long as none of your principles are violated, it is best to let that happen and in some cases, even encourage it. When players can establish their own traditions, chants and pre-game and post-game rituals, they are more likely to stay bought in to the cultural framework you as coach have established. Plus, you might learn something along the way that makes you a better coach and better person.

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